Friday, November 6, 2009


I thought I'd make a list of historical figures who I consider to be personal heroes along with a list of sub-heroes or people who I admire but I either do not know enough about or, upon learning more, have discovered some disqualifying feature.

This will probably be an on-going project. Please include your own lists and suggestions in the comments.


Charles Darwin
James Randi


Daniel Dennett
Benjamin Franklin
Albert Einstein
Stephen Hawking
Alan Turing
Harvey Milk
Kurt Vonnegut
Flannery O'Connor

Who is a hero? Someone who is predominately good, who may have some flaws, but is principled and intelligent, someone who has been tested by history and bruised by detractors and difficult times, but is nevertheless resilient, someone who improves life for us all, is interesting and becomes more interesting the more you delve into his or her past.

Looking at my list so far, you will notice a rather disturbing lack of women and religious people. I've thrown in Flannery O'Connor, one of my favorite writers, who was both a woman and a devout Catholic. But her inclusion is a stretch because I'm not particularly well-read of all her work and I know even less about her past. I'm tempted to add Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr, which I still may do, but I'm not yet fascinated by these historical figures.

I would genuinely like to add some religious people, but knowing my interests, this is a tough proposition because religion is often a disqualifier. Anyone know anything about Rabbi Hillel? CS Lewis might have been a candidate, but after reading the first few pages of Mere Christianity, I'm afraid he's out the door. Saint Augustine perhaps?

One of the facts about myself that I have often wondered: Am I a skeptic because my heroes are skeptics or are my heroes skeptics because I am a skeptic? There is a subtle but important difference between those statements, the second being more egocentric than the first. I am fairly confident that I found my heroes first and their conduct and history led me to where I stand today. But it's difficult to escape the suspicion that maybe I've never been as free in my inquiries as I'd like to think.


folkfan said...

Check out what Bethany Pierce has to say:

Jay said...

Benjamin Franklin is quickly climbing up the list! I'm a bit wishy-washy on Thomas Jefferson. He seems a bit too ruthless.

Daniel said...

Check out Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine. I think you'd like him a lot.